7 Things Tax Preparers Wish We Would Do

Advice from the professionals for a smooth and painless tax filing.

Filling in a 1040 individual tax form with calculator and laptop
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Between now and April 15, as you start preparing your taxes, the best thing you can do for your wallet is think about how you can make life easier for your tax preparer.

Another way to put it: You can present your preparer with a pile of unorganized receipts and get through the process painfully, or you can do some preparation and make everyone happy. Here are some thoughts, suggestions and requests from tax preparers on what they wish taxpayers would do when putting together their tax paperwork. It's also good advice to follow if you're doing your own taxes.

[See: Tax Tips: The Good, Bad and Ugly (But Legal).]

Be a model client. Most people who are disorganized with their taxes likely don't know how to be organized, or at least lack a strategy. So follow the advice of Denise Mummert, a certified public accountant with Windham Brannon in Atlanta.

She suggests creating a file for each year's tax return data. If you aren't doing that already, start one for the 2014 taxes you will be filing in 2015.

"This could be a plastic-sectioned accordion file or something as simple as a manila folder," she says. "Set up a tax return data file at the beginning of the year and put information in it throughout the year as events occur."

Mummert says receipts for items you plan to deduct should go in this file, and certainly information on bonuses or stocks, receipts for property tax payments and transaction receipts for sales of stocks and bonds.

Then, before you meet with your tax preparer, Mummert advises grouping similar items together, and if you have a lot of receipts, add them up and write the totals in the file.

Don't give your tax preparer a shoebox of receipts. Yes, it's tempting, but G. Scott Haislet, a certified public accountant and attorney based in Lafayette, Calif., who specializes in tax law, can't be the only tax preparer who simply won't look at them. Haislet says his firm has a policy of rejecting shoeboxes. "It's inefficient and involves mind-reading," he says.

Going through the shoebox and adding up the numbers is your job, unless you talk it over with your preparer beforehand and he or she agrees to accept it. But if you do give a tax preparer a pile of papers, realize that in most, if not all cases, you'll be charged more for the additional time required to dig through it. Those extra hours will add up: According to an annual National Society of Accountants survey, taxpayers who hire a professional this year should expect to pay an average of $261 for an itemized Form 1040 with Schedule A and a state tax return. If you plan to file a nonitemized return, the average cost for a professional to prepare a Form 1040 and state return is $152.

[Read: 5 Reasons to File Your Taxes Early.]

Matthew Levin, also a CPA with Windham Brannon, good-naturedly recalls a client who "was in the habit of bringing his information to us each year in a paper grocery bag." He was rarely late to his meetings, but on one occasion, he was. Levin says the client told him: "I was in a rush to leave our house, and I mistakenly grabbed the wrong paper sack for our meeting. Halfway to your office, I realized that I had taken the trash bag with me. So I had to turn around and drive home to pick up the correct tax receipts paper sack."

Don't be that person.

Give all of your paperwork to your tax preparer at one time. Doling it out piecemeal is a no-no. But if you have everything except one or two pieces of information and feel you need to get everything to your tax preparer now, write a note, tax preparers suggest, and let whomever is doing your taxes know what's missing. Otherwise, your preparer will waste time looking for it, and that will likely result in a higher fee for you and a headache for your preparer.

Talk to your tax preparer throughout the year. "When clients show up in March with a 'Here, this is what I did last year,' situation, I can't help them. So consult, consult, consult," advises Juana Maria Gonzalez, a tax preparer in Miami Lakes, Fla., who is an enrolled agent with the Internal Revenue Service. (In a nutshell, she is licensed by the federal government and can represent people in tax audits.)